The waiting and suspense for some top KC Royals prospects, and a lot of fans, have ended.
A little less than an hour after the deadline passed for all 30 major league clubs to add players to their 40-man roster for Rule 5 draft purposes, the Royals announced six newcomers (Twitter link). Because the club started the day with four 40-man vacancies, it removed two players from the roster to make room for the additions.
To absolutely no one’s surprise, Kansas City chose catcher MJ Melendez, first baseman Nick Pratto, and pitcher Jonathan Bowlan. Joining them on the big club’s 40-man roster are infielder Maikel Garcia and pitchers Collin Snider and Nathan Webb.
Gone are pitcher Kyle Zimmer, who the team DFA’d, and infielder Lucius Fox, who Baltimore picked up on a waiver claim.
The importance of adding Melendez, Pratto, Bowlan, Garcia, Snider and Webb is, of course, the protection from the Rule 5 draft their new roster spots provide—no player on a big league club’s 40-man can be selected by any other team in the Rule 5 proceedings, which typically occur on the last day of baseball’s Winter Meetings. That confab is scheduled for Dec. 5-9.
MLB Pipeline ranks three of the now-protected six among KC’s Top 30 prospects—Pratto is No. 2, Melendez No. 4, and Bowlan No. 10.
Splitting his season between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha, Melendez led the minor leagues in home runs with 41, drove in 103 runs in 123 games, and slashed a combined .288/.386/.625. Pratto, the club’s first round amateur draft pick in 2017, bounced back from a horrendous 2019 season at High-A by slamming 36 homers with a .265 average and .385 OBP between Northwest Arkansas and Omaha.
Bowlan was among the uber-talented crop of pitchers the Royals grabbed in the 2018 draft (he went in the second round) and is 14-9 with a 3.68 in three minor league seasons. He was off to an excellent 2-0, 1.59 start this season when an elbow issue led to Tommy John surgery; he’ll miss much, and possibly all, of next season. Kansas City, though, clearly feared other clubs would draft him despite the injury and protected him.
At first blush, Garcia’s inclusion on the 40-man might seem curious—he hasn’t played above High-A in four professional seasons and has negligible power. But he hit .291 with a .380 OBP and stole 35 bases across 51 games at Class-A Columbia and 53 at High-A Quad Cities. He’s a speedster who hits well and knows how to get on base, skills the KC Royals covet.
Righthanded reliever Snider, another four-season veteran of the organization, owns an 18-13, 4.11, 10-save career minor league record.
Webb may be the least familiar of the six new 40-man members. Drafted in the 34th round of the 2016 draft, and primarily a reliever over five minor league campaigns, he went 4-3, 3.94 between Columbia and Quad Cities this season.
The KC Royals dropped Kyle Zimmer and Lucius Fox from the 40-man roster.
With only four spots open on its 40-man, Kansas City couldn’t add six players without cutting two. Unlucky were Kyle Zimmer and Lucius Fox.
Zimmer, plagued by injuries throughout a seven-season minor league career (not counting the 2018 campaign, which injury caused him to miss), made an unimpressive big league debut in 2019, going 0-1 and surrendering 22 runs in 18.1 innings. He seemed to be realizing his potential when he posted a 1.57 ERA for the shortened 2020 season, and pitched well this year—4-0 with a 3.57 ERA—before the All-Star Break, but neck and trap spasms forced him to the Injured List for three weeks in August and he finished the second half 0-1, 7.71.
The KC Royals can re-sign Zimmer later, of course. Considering their long commitment to him, don’t be surprised to see him return.
Other than a five-game rehab assignment to the Arizona Complex League, Fox spent the 2021 season at Omaha after coming to the Royals in the late 2020 trade that sent Brett Phillips to Tampa Bay. He slashed .242/.347/.363 and stole 19 bases for the Storm Chasers. Unlike Zimmer, he’s not a strong candidate to return to the organization, especially considering its wealth of infield talent and the interest-proving waiver claim Baltimore made on him.
What happened to several other Rule 5-eligible Kansas City prospects?
Among players the Royals didn’t protect by adding them to the 40-man roster are pitchers Austin Cox and Zach Haake, infielder Gabriel Cancel, and outfielders Seuly Matias, Brewer Hicklen and Dairon Blanco.
The KC Royals made several moves today. Their 40-man roster no longer has any vacancies.